The National Rifle Association likes to say that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” This vaporous aphorism, first intoned by NRA leader Wayne LaPierre four years ago, made an appearance this week on the NRA’s Twitter feed – but it doesn’t quite mean what the NRA thinks.
In an attack at a Minnesota mall last weekend, a knife-wielding assailant was shot dead by a former police chief named Jason Falconer. According to a biography on his company’s website, in addition to his police training Falconer “has attended some of the best firearms training schools in the United States.”
After taking the weekend to formulate a response, and keeping in mind Twitter’s 140-character limit, on Monday the NRA the following: “Jason Falconer is a gun owner, #NRA-certified instructor, and owner of a shooting range; a good guy with a gun.”
Falconer is indeed all that – which is why his skillful response is such a comprehensive rebuttal to the NRA’s habitual nonsense. By all accounts Falconer is a good guy, and his heroics saved lives. What made him effective, however, is that he’s an expert guy.
The NRA is not suggesting that every aspiring gunslinger become an expert. Quite the contrary. The organization talks a lot about gun safety and runs training programs. But its priorities lie elsewhere – such as its demand that virtually every American have immediate access to firearms, without training or qualification or cause or background check, and that they be authorized to carry those firearms in public no matter how unskilled or reckless they may be. That’s one reason that there are countless cases of accidental shootings, rage-induced homicides and alcohol-fueled attacks for every rare instance of a good guy with a gun stopping a killing.
It’s always dangerous to read too much into a slogan, even a catchy one. Still, it bears repeating: A guy with a gun and good intentions is not enough to stop a bad guy with a gun. As Jason Falconer showed, it also takes a guy who’s good with a gun.